THE GUN DEBATE raging now in our community tests the vitality of the oft quoted NRA slogan “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” It is true that people kill people. And it is equally true that the manner in which our society approaches mental health issues, especially among our nation’s youth, needs serious rethinking. But is a terrible oversimplification to claim that guns do not kill people.
In fact, guns do kill people. And as is apparent in the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, certain types of guns – semi-automatic assault weapons in particular – are capable of killing a lot of people in a very short amount of time. Keeping that in mind, it is easy to imagine that a person who enters an elementary school brandishing a knife will be capable of killing far less children than someone in the same position who wields a semi-automatic assault rifle.
We know the consequences of our current gun regulations: the stark number of gun-related deaths in our country is proof alone that change is needed. But we will never make any measureable gains toward the comprehensive gun reform we so badly need unless gun ownership advocates acknowledge this reality: guns are not the solution to our gun problem; they in fact consume the lion's share of the problem.
Gun right’s advocates, however, want to curtail the public gun debate in a manner that avoids accepting any responsibility for the role guns actually play in (not surprisingly) gun violence. For example, one picture posted in several social media outlets and which is surfing its way across the internet makes this bogus analogy: “If guns kill people then pencils misspell words, cars make people drive drunk, and spoons made Rosie O’Donnell fat.”
This is a clear example of an attempt to skirt responsibility for the role guns play in gun violence with a misleading use of imagery. The comparison attempts to place the relationship guns play in gun-related deaths on equal footing with the relationship between spoons and obesity. But this attempt is not forthcoming: this type of red herring denies the reality of the situation, it tries to conceal the horror that guns inflict on our community.
That is not to say that drunk driving is not a legitimate concern. It is. And that is not to say that obesity is not a legitimate concern. It is. But just because discussions are unfolding about these issues simultaneously with our gun control debate is no reason to turn a blind eye to the thousands of preventable gun-related deaths that affect our friends, neighbors, and family members each year.
Instead of imagining utensils when thinking about the current unfolding gun debate, the images that must come to mind are the ones that actually happen; we cannot deny ourselves the reality of gun violence.
That is, we must remember the little eight-year-old girl who walks to school one winter morning thinking only about innocent things as the day’s show-and-tell, only to soon be huddled beneath her desk not completely understanding why, but knowing this: she is deeply afraid and she wants her mom. We must remember the terror racing through her mind as she meets her premature death at the hand of an automatic assault weapon. And we cannot forget the parents who will later come to claim her lifeless body; the parents who will come to take her home.
Trent Latta is an attorney and he can be contacted at TrentLatta@gmail.com.